New Mexico First to discuss higher education at ENMU

Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Preparing New Mexicans for the future by using higher education will be the premier focus at the New Mexico First community meeting taking place Friday at Eastern New Mexico University.

According to their press release, New Mexico First was founded in 1986 by Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman in order to bring citizens of diverse backgrounds together to work on broad issues.

Civic and business leaders and educators from the Portales and Clovis area are invited as Associate Director of New Mexico First Heather Balas presents to them a report addressing the issue.

The report consists of recommendations made by citizens from across the state who attended the New Mexico First Town Hall meeting which took place in Santa Fe in April.

Town Hall meetings are held once a year by the non-profit organization at various locations throughout the state. Between 100 and 125 citizens of the state attend the meetings in order to come up with recommendations about the topic being discussed, which at the last meeting was higher education.

Previous to the meetings, a selected state university prepares a background report so participants have prior knowledge on the subject. Once recommendations are made, they are sent to the state legislature.

“We put together a team of volunteers called our implementation team and those folks work for 12 to 18 months after each of the town halls conclude to advance the recommendations that came (from the meeting),” Balas said.

Because changing public policy is a slow and hard process, Balas said by getting a group of volunteers involved right after the town hall, they become committed to help ensure those recommendations get the attention they warrant from lawmakers.

Throughout the process, New Mexico First holds a handful of smaller community meetings, such as the one taking place on Friday, to inform those who were unable to attend the Town Hall about the recommendations being made.

“It’s just another way for them to try to communicate with more people in the state,” said Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Manager Sharon King. “I think it’s really great that they’ve started these community meetings to get the word out to folks about the recommendations.”

King, who is also a New Mexico First board member, said several of the recommendations the organization has sent to the legislature have been put into action either by law or some other method.

She said the organization has become credible to many people throughout the state because of their commitment in going out into the communities and listening to what the people have to say.